HomePOLITICO Playbook PM: Congress finds a new subject to bicker aboutBusinessPOLITICO Playbook PM: Congress finds a new subject to bicker about

POLITICO Playbook PM: Congress finds a new subject to bicker about

BREAKING … THE HOUSE DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP abandoned its plans to come back into session next week, bowing to the reality that Washington is still a hotbed of Covid-19 infection, and it’s not safe to force lawmakers to travel and congregate here during the pandemic.

THIS IS A REVERSAL from Monday, when House Majority Leader STENY HOYER said the chamber would be back in session. HOYER told reporters today that, after consulting with the attending physician, he had changed his mind.


THE SENATE will still come back into session, despite what HOYER described as the advice of the attending physician, who advises both chambers.

THE HOUSE DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP is trying to strike a deal on proxy voting with Republicans. Meanwhile, the chorus of lawmakers calling for alternative accommodations for Congress in the pandemic continues to grow. (Younger lawmakers have taken the lead: Here’s Rep. ELISE STEFANIK (R-N.Y.). Rep. ERIC SWALWELL (D-Calif.) has been vocal, as well.)

IF YOU WERE WONDERING whether Republicans would wallop House Democrats over this, read on, from a House Republican leadership aide: “This a complete embarrassment for House Democrats. At a time when the American people are looking to their government leaders for guidance and confidence, it sends a horrible signal that Democrat leadership can’t even manage an announcement on returning to business without completely reversing their decision in less than 24 hours.

“How do they explain to the American people why the Republican White House and the Republican Senate can be in Washington to carry out their work on behalf of their constituents, but House Democrats cannot?”

ON THE NEXT BILL … THERE WILL BE A LOT OF TEA LEAF READING in the next few weeks about the feasibility of another stimulus package, and if you listen to Senate Minority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER, you will probably grow a bit more skeptical.

SCHUMER was on MSNBC’s “MORNING JOE” this morning, and he shot down Senate Majority Leader MITCH MCCONELL’S demand that Congress shield employers from liability in exchange for state and local aid.

“[MCCONNELL] says we don’t want to give [state and local aid] until we make sure there’s no liability,” SCHUMER said. “Well, does that mean that if a boss tells a worker, ‘You gotta work next to somebody that has no mask,’ that worker can’t protect him or herself and the boss is immune from liability?

“THE AID IS NOT GOING TO ‘GOVERNMENT.’ It’s going to police officers, firefighters, bus drivers, health safety inspectors. These are the people who need help. There’s going to be massive layoffs at the state and local level unless we get some money to them quickly. And we’ve got to do that quickly [in the next bill].”

SO, MCCONNELL’S PRICE — liability shield in exchange for state and local aid — seems to be meeting some pretty heavy resistance.

OK, SO, RIDDLE US THIS: WHAT’S THE PATH FORWARD for this deal? Is it a simple, bare-bones bill — Paycheck Protection Program, unemployment insurance and some other low-hanging fruit? Or will both sides need a pound of flesh and some priorities? AT THE MOMENT, BOTH SIDES are playing not only to each other, but to their own bases and their own members. It will be tough to know the true mood until members come back next week, and also, until we see how the opening of states goes.

TREASURY SECRETARY STEVEN MNUCHIN on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” … ON BIG COMPANIES getting PPP loans: “I think it is unfortunate that there’s a small number of companies that have created a lot of publicity that took loans.”

— MNUCHIN said the SBA will do a “full review” of all PPP loans over $2 million before the loans are forgiven. “If people had other sources of liquidity, they could not take this loan.”

— MNUCHIN on state and local aid: “This isn’t going to be just a federal bailout of the states. On the other hand, this will be an ongoing discussion.” … INTERESTING: MNUCHIN deferred to Congress on whether federal dollars can go to replace lost state revenue. This is something some Republicans are vehemently against.

MNUCHIN was on Fox Business as well: “I think by August and September, you’re going to see a big bounce back from what has been a very rocky period.”

FWIW: WE ASKED the Republican Governors Association on Monday whether they support federal aid for states and local governments. They didn’t respond.

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI will be on NICOLLE WALLACE’S MSNBC show today at 4:20 p.m.

Good Tuesday afternoon.

MORE PPE WOES — “Some businesses won’t return funds despite pressure from Trump administration,” by WaPo’s Jeanne Whalen, Aaron Gregg and Michelle Ye Hee Lee: “A handful of publicly traded companies say they aren’t planning to return loans received from a small-business rescue program, despite pressure from the Trump administration to repay the funds.

“Companies in the hotel, cruise ship and medical-device sectors said they are qualified to receive the money under the Paycheck Protection Program and need the funds to stay in business. Their resistance comes days after the Small Business Administration suggested dozens of publicly held companies should give back money received from the Paycheck Protection Program by May 7.” WaPo

THE ECONOMY — “Companies Are Suspending Dividends at Fastest Pace in Years,” by WSJ’s Paul Vigna: “More companies have suspended or canceled their dividends so far this year than in the previous 10 years combined, with companies scrambling to preserve cash as the coronavirus pandemic saps revenue.

“Through Monday morning, 81 U.S. companies and public investment funds, like real-estate investment trusts, have suspended or canceled their dividends, the highest number in data going back to 2001, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. In the previous 10 years, 55 companies eliminated their dividends—payouts that companies make to shareholders as a reward for standing by them.” WSJ

“Southwest posts 1st quarterly loss in almost a decade,” by AP’s David Koenig

THE LATEST RESEARCH — “Patients with certain cancers are nearly three times as likely to die of covid-19, study says,” by WaPo’s Laurie McGinley: “Cancer patients — especially those with blood or lung malignancies, or tumors that have spread throughout the body — have a higher risk of death or other severe complications from covid-19 compared with those without cancer, according to a study published Tuesday. …

“The co-authors, from China, Singapore and the United States, found that cancer patients who developed covid-19 had nearly a threefold higher death rate from the virus than the 2 to 3 percent rate estimated for the general population. Cancer patients also were more likely to experience “severe events,” such as being admitted to intensive care units and needing mechanical ventilation, than people without cancer.” WaPo

— AP/LONDON: “European doctors warn rare kids’ syndrome may have virus tie,” by Maria Cheng: “Doctors in Britain, Italy, and Spain have been warned to look out for a rare inflammatory condition in children that is possibly linked to the new coronavirus.

“Earlier this week, Britain’s Paediatric Intensive Care Society issued an alert to doctors noting that in the past three weeks, there has been an increase in the number of children with ‘a multi-system inflammatory state requiring intensive care’ across the country. The group said there was ‘growing concern’ that either a COVID-19 related syndrome was emerging in children or that a different, unidentified disease might be responsible.” AP

TESTING LATEST — “Documents reveal Trump administration planning to use New York City for ‘Restore America’ coronavirus antibody testing project,” by Yahoo’s Alexander Nazaryan and Jana Winter: “The Trump administration is planning to launch a pilot program that will involve widespread testing of New York City residents for antibodies to the coronavirus, according to documents reviewed by Yahoo news.

“Existence of that soon-to-be-launched program, called ‘Restore America,’ was discussed in an internal Trump administration document produced by the Department of Homeland Security on April 25 and shared with other departments within the federal government that are working on pandemic response. … For a pilot program in New York … federal authorities would almost certainly use a test manufactured by a large commercial laboratory. But as of Monday evening, virtually no details about the program were available.” Yahoo

— WSJ: “The Hunt for Covid-19 Drugs and Vaccines Becomes Even More Complex,” by Denise Roland and Jared Hopkins: “The fast-evolving coronavirus pandemic is posing unusual challenges in the search for drugs and vaccines, forcing researchers to rework or even scrap clinical trials as the science becomes outdated and lockdowns make study subjects harder to find.

“Researchers in China this month had to shut down two studies they had hoped would examine a Gilead Sciences Inc. drug because they couldn’t find enough patients after the virus’s peak had passed. Meanwhile, researchers at Gilead and other places are opting to forgo standard tools such as a placebo arm in order to speed up trials, even though that might mean sacrificing rigor. The most immediate challenge: finding patients before infections drop because of social restrictions.” WSJ

THE UNCOUNTED UNEMPLOYED — “Millions of Americans locked out of unemployment system, survey finds,” by Reuters’ Andy Sullivan: “The left-leaning Economic Policy Institute found in an online poll that for every 10 people who have successfully filed unemployment claims, three or four people have been unable to register and another two people have not tried to apply at a time of acute economic crisis.

“Official U.S. statistics show that 26.5 million people have applied for unemployment benefits since mid-March, wiping out all of the jobs gained during the longest employment boom in U.S. history. EPI’s survey indicates that an additional 8.9 million to 13.9 million people have been shut out of the system, said Ben Zipperer, the study’s lead author.” Reuters

LEFT HANGING — “Freelancers and Self-Employed Workers Undone by Late Start in Coronavirus Stimulus Program,” by WSJ’s Amara Omeokwe and Charity Scott: “Self-employed workers and independent contractors have been among the hardest hit in a coronavirus pandemic that ground the economy to a halt. … Delays in eligibility and guidance set back these business owners by more than a week in applying for a forgivable loan during the first round of the Paycheck Protection Program. …

“The funds opened to these groups April 10, a week after small businesses and nonprofits began applying. By that time, lenders had already been inundated with applications. The Treasury Department didn’t issue guidelines for independent contractors and the self-employed until April 14, meaning lenders and potential borrowers were initially unclear about needed documents and other requirements. Two days later, the Small Business Administration, which administers the program, announced the funds were gone.” WSJ

NBC’S SAHIL KAPUR: “Warren, Ocasio-Cortez propose halt to big mergers during coronavirus pandemic”

OVERSIGHT WATCH — “Senator Pushes DOJ to Open Criminal Investigation Into Amazon,” by WSJ’s Dana Mattioli and Ryan Tracy: “A senator is pushing the Justice Department to open a criminal antitrust investigation into Amazon.com Inc. after a Wall Street Journal report detailed the company’s use of third-party seller data to develop its products.

“In a letter addressed to Attorney General William Barr, Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) urged the Justice Department to ‘open a criminal antitrust investigation of Amazon.’ He said recent reports suggest the company ‘has engaged in predatory and exclusionary data practices to build and maintain a monopoly.’ Mr. Hawley said the department should look at Amazon’s position as an online platform that also creates products that compete with its third-party sellers.” WSJ

TALKER … THE CUT’S REBECCA TRAISTER: “The Biden Trap: As the candidate faces credible assault allegations, his progressive female colleagues are being offered a poisoned chalice.”

VALLEY TALK — “How a Digital Ad Strategy That Helped Trump Is Being Used Against Him,” by NYT’s Nick Corasanti: “Facebook users in five key swing states have been seeing a peculiar sequence of political ads pixelating their news feeds for the past six months. It begins with a carousel ad from a page called United Research Group asking them to fill out a lengthy survey. Soon afterward, multiple ads from Pacronym, a progressive super PAC, begin to litter the Facebook experience of about half of those who had been surveyed. Then, an ad for a different but related survey appears.

“This rather specific experience is an intentional and coordinated effort to reach persuadable voters in critical presidential battlegrounds, a result of months of work by a group of former Facebook employees and data scientists at the progressive nonprofit group Acronym. Essentially, the group, which includes some who worked on the Trump campaign in 2016, has co-opted the political ad function on Facebook to perform real-time persuasion message testing, to get a sense of how voters are reacting to ads as they see them.” NYT

BIG TRUMP CAMPAIGN READ … NYT MAGAZINE’S ROBERT DRAPER: “Can the Trump Campaign Rewrite the Story of the Trump Presidency?: Brad Parscale sees a path to victory through discounted Facebook ads and keeping Trump on TV.”

FOR THOSE KEEPING TRACK — “Full appeals court weighs whether McGahn must testify,” by Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney: “A federal appeals court convened a rare session of nine judges Tuesday to tackle an issue crucial to the future balance of power between the president and Congress: whether lawmakers can turn to the courts to enforce subpoenas aimed at exposing alleged wrongdoing in the executive branch. …

“While the case judges mulled over Tuesday could ultimately resolve a centuries-old debate about the relationship between the political branches, it seems increasingly unlikely to be definitively decided on a timeline that would produce testimony from McGahn or other witnesses in advance of the November presidential election.” POLITICO

TRANSITION — Former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson is joining the U.S. Steel board of directors. He is also currently a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. In 2019, the board compensation was $265,000. Gene Sperling is also on the board.

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